“Word for Today” – John 1 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

March 17, 2009 at 5:45 am Leave a comment

sesame-street-1I am a child of the Sesame Street generation.  I grew up watching Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Bert, Ernie, Snuffleupagus, Grover, and even Mr. Hooper before his untimely passing.  And yet, even though I learned about everything a little kid could conceivably be interested in from this timeless children’s classic – from geometry to healthy eating habits to being brave, even in the dark – it was during Sesame Street that I also received my first formal introduction to the great American tradition of unabashed advertising.  Yes, I know that Sesame Street airs on the non-profit, commercial-free PBS network, but that didn’t stop the Children’s Television Workshop from receiving large corporate sponsorships resulting in shameless plugs for these same sponsors at the end of each show.  You remember, don’t you?  “Sesame Street has been brought to you by the letter ‘A.’  The letter ‘Q.’  And the number ‘7.’”  Capitalistic commercialization at its best.

If Sesame Street can do it, so can I.  So, in the interest of full disclosure, today’s blog is brought to you by the letter “i.”

With that sponsorship mention out of the way, in our “Word for Today” readings, we begin reading through the gospel of John.  And, in his opening comments in John 1, we hear a beautifully clear and cogent statement concerning Jesus’ divinity:  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (verse 1).  Jesus, John says, was the God of the universe.  And yet, despite John’s unequivocal affirmation, this fundamental confession of Jesus’ divinity has not always been so readily received.

The year was AD 325.  The emperor of Rome at the time, Constantine the Great, had convened an ecumenical church council at Nicea to discuss many things, one of which was the formulation of a formal confession of the Christian faith.  Dispute broke out, however, as to how Jesus should be described.  And this dispute was brought to us by, you guessed it, the letter “i.”  Many in this church council, led by a man named Athanasius, thought that Jesus should be referred to using the Greek word homoousious, meaning that he was “of one substance with God.”  That is, many affirmed John’s declaration:  Jesus is God.  Another contingent, however, led by a man named Arius, wanted to refer to Jesus using the word homoiousious, meaning that he was “of like substance with God.”  One letter.  A world of difference.  One side clearly confessed Jesus’ divinity.  The other side demanded a confession that referred to Jesus as God-like, but not God himself.

Now, lest you think that this dispute is a mere relic best kept sitting on the dusty shelves of history, let me assure you that how you answer this dispute has profound implications for how you perceive God.  The question is this:  How close do you think God is?  Does he simply reside in heaven, watching with a passive, even if intense, interest at our sinfulness, brokenness, and pain?  Or, has God actually come to be close to us in Jesus?  John’s answer is clear:  “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (verse 14).  In Jesus, God has come to get really close to us.  But that’s not all.  For God has come with a gift for us.  Jesus, John says, came “full of grace and truth” (verse 14).  In other words, when God got really close to us, he didn’t get really close just to condemn us or to criticize us or to wag his faultless finger at us.  No, he came really close to us to give us grace out of his love for us.  As Athanasius wrote, “For by God becoming a man, the Savior was to accomplish…works of love” (Incarnation of the Word, 18).

What, then, is the upshot of all of this?  Simply this:  There is no “i” in homoousious.  Jesus is not “of like substance with God,” he is of “one substance with God.”  And yes, this actually matters.  For it means that God got really close in Jesus.  And he got really close to you.  So let’s put the “i” back where it belongs:  I believe in Jesus Christ…who, being of one substance with the Father, came down from heaven and was made man.”

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – 2 Corinthians 13 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – John 2 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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